By Steve Siciliano
When Michael Adams pulled into the driveway the woman was just starting her fourth attempt at making a pie crust. Before going into the house, Michael picked up a fire truck, a soccer ball and an over-sized plastic bat off the lawn and then did a quick pass with a shovel on the front porch steps. Five minutes later when he walked into the kitchen the woman didn’t look up at him. “He’s in his bedroom,” she told him.
Michael watched the woman’s face while she attacked the flattened disc of dough with a rolling pin. “Any idea what’s wrong?” he asked her.
“He won’t tell me. I hope you remembered the pie filling.”
“I did. It’s right here.” Michael put a paper bag on the table then went to the foyer to hang up his heavy winter jacket and take off his boots. On his way back through the kitchen he spotted two pools of melting snow on the linoleum, glanced at his wife, then wiped them dry with his stocking feet. When he was walking down the hallway he heard something slam hard against the counter top.
“What is it Susan?” he called out.
“You bought the wrong stuff. I specifically told you pumpkin pie filling.”
“Isn’t that what I got?”
“No. You bought plain pumpkin.”
“I’m sorry, Susan,” Michael said. “I’ll go back to the store after I talk to Joey.” He stood for a moment in the hallway and when no other sounds came from the kitchen he tapped on the bedroom door, opened it, and saw his five-year old son lying on the bed staring at the ceiling.
“Hey, buddy,” Michael said. “Is it okay if I come in?”
The boy turned and faced the wall. “I guess.”
Michael closed the door, sat on the bed and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Mom told me there’s something bothering you.”
The boy reached out and followed a line of smiling, drum-playing monkeys on the wallpaper with his fingers.
“Don’t you want to tell me?” Michael asked.
The boy turned on his back and put a pillow over his face.
“What was that?” Michael asked. “You know I can’t hear you when you talk into your pillow.”
“I said you lied to me.”
“I did? When did I lie to you?”
The boy took the pillow off his head and threw it across the room. “Dicky Brown laughed at me when I told him we were putting cookies out tonight for Santa Claus. He said Santa Claus is nothing but a big lie.”
Michael looked at the tears pooling in his son’s eyes and thought about the wooden sled, the Star Wars figures and the big box of Legos that were hidden away in the attic. He thought about how now there would be no wonder in his son’s eyes when he woke to find those things under the tree on Christmas morning. Michael was hoping for at least one more year of vicarious enchantment.
“There’s a difference between a nice story and a big lie, Joey,” Michael told his son. “Sometimes it’s hard when we have to stop believing in things, in wonderful things, but parents tell stories to their children because they want them to be happy, not because they want to hurt them or be dishonest with them. And that’s a big difference. Does that make sense to you?”
Michael Adams wiped the tears that were rolling down his son’s cheeks. “Tell you what, buddy” he said. “Let’s pretend for one more year that Santa is real. I think it would be good for mom if we did. It will be our little secret. Do you think you can do that?”
Later, after going to the store for pumpkin pie filling, Michael and Joey Adams built a snowman, had a snowball fight and made snow angels on the front lawn. Before they went back into the warm house for big mugs of hot chocolate, they ran around the yard with their mouths opened wide and tried to get big, slow-falling flakes of snow to land on their tongues.